Fri, Feb 07, 2020 - Page 3 News List

Virus Outbreak: Pharmacy, supplier investigated

MASK HOARDING:Officials seized 970,000 masks labeled for ‘medical use’ from a pharmacy and its supplier, but the masks appear to be made of low-quality materials

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Two Criminal Investigation Bureau officers show CH0B 910 N95 masks found during a raid on a pharmacy in New Taipei City’s Sinjhuang District on Monday.

Screen grab from the Criminal Investigation Bureau’s Web site.

A pharmacy and its supplier, HC Safety Co (合晟企業), in New Taipei City are under investigation for allegedly hoarding masks and passing them off as “medical use” items, the Ministry of Justice Investigation Bureau said yesterday.

After receiving reports from local residents, health officials, together with bureau agents, on Monday conducted a search of the pharmacy in Sinjhuang District (新莊).

On Wednesday, they raided the offices and warehouses of HC Safety in Shulin District (樹林), and summoned the company owners for questioning.

New Taipei City head prosecutor Chiang Yu-cheng (江祐丞), who leads a taskforce investigating the case, told reporters that they had seized nearly 300 cartons of masks at the pharmacy and 233 cartons at HC Safety, which together contain a total of 970,000 masks.

At press time, the owners — a husband and wife — were still being questioned.

Chiang said they might face charges of hoarding goods, and breaching the Pharmacy Affairs Act (藥事法) and the Criminal Code.

The cartons are labeled for “medical use” and mainly contain N95 masks and No. 318 Ear-Loop Face masks, Chiang said, adding that the owners said they were imported from China.

These types of masks are regulated as “medical devices” under the act, and sellers need to register with and obtain approval from local health authorities, as well as a business permit to sell them, Chiang said.

However, the owners were unable to produce such a permit, nor any documents relating to their import or approval by health authorities, he added.

The masks might have been smuggled in from China, Chiang said, adding that on closer inspection, they appear to be low-quality masks and are unlikely to qualify for “medical use.”

An investigation is under way to determine their origin and manufacturing process, he said.

Chiang said some residents reported the pharmacy to local office, after seeing the drug store doing brisk business selling the masks for NT$50 each.

Some customers said they found it suspicous after finding the boxes did not carry the proper registration and approval marks from the Ministry of Health and Welfare.

In other developments, judiciary officials said a couple in New Taipei City were taken in for questioning after allegedly breaking their mandatory two-week home confinement after returning on Sunday from a trip to China.

The couple had boarded a flight from Taipei to Kinmen and were yesterday stopped by border officers at Kinmen port, as they were trying to board a ferry headed to Xiamen in China’s Fujian Province.

Kinmen officials said that if found guilty of breaching their confinement orders, the couple could be fined a maximum of NT$150,000.

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